A year later and I am privileged to find myself back on the Bushman's River yet again. Last year this time I wrote about a blissful few days at what in my humble book is one of the best wild predominately brown trout rivers in the country. Summer is in full swing and the regular cycle of daily convectional storms appear to churn the river up sufficiently to turn the water from gin-like clarity to a pastis translucence that aids and abets the less expert flyanglers like myself.

What a difference a year makes. The river must have been subject to a few storm upheavals because some pools have changed morphology dramatically. I have spent so little time fishing steams this year that it took some time to get my mojo working. I must have dropped four fish and then got smashed up by what looked like a matriarch before I finally landed my first fish (a respectable 1.5 pounder). Eager to hone my success rate I decided to keep this little fellow (we had a few mouths to feed) and on inspection of the stomach contents I was flabbergasted at the size of the large dragon nymphs the smallish fish had been feeding on. Big very dark dragons! I had none in my fly box so I returned to the cottage to tie up a few.

I had no black chenille and had little patience to roll myself some dubbing substitute so I used the darkest brown I had and added a black hackle to the flash ribbing. A bit of bathplug chain touched up with a koki pen and some lead foundation ensured the flies would sink a bit in the strongly flowing water.

Armed with these makings I returned to the river and for the next two days fished almost nothing else. I had pretty successful sessions landing fish up to 3.5 pound (the biggest was again caught in the notorious Puff adder pool.)

I saw some bigger fish appearing to thumb their fins at me as they headed off

after catching sight of me. So good fishing is there to be had!

The NEMBA campaign is still very much on the go with much to do in the year ahead. At present we are waiting for the agreed mapping process to be completed and then reviewed. You may recall that there is broad agreement with most industry stakeholders on the one hand and the DEA, DAFF and the provincial authorities on the other, that where trout occur they will not be listed. This is a positive and common sense outcome that is still subject to debate but which has been largely accepted. We are also waiting for feedback on an alternative draft set of regulations dealing with trout. As always, it's the nitty-gritty detail that requires much focus. And given past experience we will remain positive but vigilant.

FOSAF continues to play a key role in Trout SA - the commodity group comprising fish producers and processors, recreational anglers, academics and the rest of the trout based value chain. This entity is now up and running and I urge you all to give Trout SA your support as and when requested. Without this important organisation FOSAF and its partners in the trout industry would not have been able to make the headway we have achieved in the NEMBA campaign to date.

The New Year is upon us and I wish you and your families or significant others all the best for 2015 and "tight lines" in all your endeavours. May I remind you of the need to renew you subscriptions. We as FOSAF depend on our membership and supporters and your continued support is much valued and appreciated.

Please also remember that you can now subscribe to FLYFISHING at a discounted rate, therefore benefitting even further from your membership of FOSAF. Please check the website for details.

Please add to your subscription payment if required


"Size is critical when selecting patterns and blue-winged olives are small. Mature nymphs, even for the largest species, rarely reach a size 16 hook. Most species need to be matched with flies in the 18 or 20 size range". Rick Hafele, Nymph-Fishing Rivers and Streams A biologist's view of taking trout below the surface. (Stackpole Books, 2006)

"The single most important trigger in a fly, in my experience, is its comparable size, and perhaps structure, to the naturals. Trigger features certainly have a place in fly-tying but the most important of these is the essential shape and structure of the invertebrate we are attempting to imitate. If we lose sight of this aim, then we completely miss the point (as will the trout.)" Jeremy Lucas, Presentation Fly-fishing (Robert Hale, 2014)

In the past year I have come to the realisation that for 35 years the flies I have been tying, while they caught trout, were too big, unnecessarily detailed and took too long to tie.

Super normal releasers

When I start making my own flies I was, like most of us, looking for the "silver bullet", the pattern that would succeed when others failed and in this regard I was greatly influenced by the "supernormal releaser" research in the 1940s of Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen.

I was first alerted to this as a factor in fly design by a reference in Trout & Salmon in the late seventies to a New Zealand fly fisher Jim Ring who incorporated specific colours in his nymphs. TC Kingsmill Moore, a Irish Supreme Court judge, did extensive work on trout reaction to colour and, in his book, 'A Man May Fish' (Colin Smythe Ltd, 1960) said: "There are at least three mystery colours, claret, gentian blue and bright orange which seem to have an attraction for trout not accountable by the occurrence of these in their natural food."

Magic materials

He went on: "There appear to be mystery materials as well as mystery colours. Hare's ear, blue jay and black ostrich herl seem to have a queer attraction for fish." To this you could add peacock herl and partridge feathers.

I tried to combine as many of these "magic materials and colours" as I could in my patterns and, as a result, they became multi-layered, complex and took, on average, about 10 minutes to tie.


Then, a year ago I discovered "GISS" (pronounced Jiss) in the writing of Jeremy Lucas, most specifically his outstanding new book, 'Presentation Fly Fishing'. GISS stands for "general impression of size and shape" silhouette if you like.

It originated with ornithologists who wanted to identify raptors against a bright sky and was later used by anti-aircraft gunners who needed to rapidly distinguish between enemy aircraft and their own.

The winner of the February/March members draw is Nigel Porter of Howick whose prize is equipment supplied by Jan Korrobel of Wildfly in Nottingham Road.

Fly size and colour

The Lucas mantra is small, sparse, flies which eschew flash and he came to these conclusions through competitive fly fishing and his work as a guide on the San River in Slovenia

"In a clear water river, as in Slovenia, a highly coloured fly spooks more fish than it catches. I have spent too many years taking flash and colour out of my flies in pursuit of the larger fish to want to go the other way.

"In low clear water it is probably best to avoid brightly coloured beads such as gold and silver and certainly the fluorescent coloured beads. My starting colour is copper but if this fails I go to black or eliminate the bead altogether. I have seen too many grayling spooked by flashy beads.

"Generally, if not invariably, the sparser the fly the more effective it is. Moreover I always try to get away with the smallest fly that the conditions will allow and this is mostly determined by flow rate and depth. If I can get a size 18 say, to the feeding depth, then that is what I will use rather than a larger fly. Never doubt that a trout or grayling can see your fly in water of even marginal clarity. What they can pick out is nothing short of incredible."

Thirty years ago I discovered three minute ants spaced along the gullet and in the stomach of a trout caught on the Smalblaar stream near Worcester. They had each been targeted individually and not randomly ingested and I realised that trout have exceptional vision.

In the past year three things occurred that made me realise that the flies I tied were too big, too complicated and took too long to tie. The first was the discovery by Allan Hobson when he first moved to Somerset East to set up the Angler and Antelope B&B that yellowfish in the turbid Pauls River were living, in the main, on the nymphs of the Blue Winged Olive (Baetis) mayfly which are less than a centimetre long. This was confirmed by the analysis of stomach contents of a hundred yellowfish conducted at the University of Johannesburg which also found that Baetids were the staple diet.

Soft hackle midge

The final piece of the puzzle was the work of Cape Town guide Tim Rolston and, in particular, his deadly CDC soft hackle midge which is featured in an article I wrote for Tom Sutcliffe's website.

Most insects that trout feed on in Western Cape streams are small, black and, after they have been submerged by currents, they look, as Tim put it," like the fluff you find in the lint trap of your washing machine." His flies average #18 and smaller and do not feature Krystalflash or hotspots. Tim's soft hackle midge conforms perfectly to the GISS dictum which is why it is so effective.

The advent of the acrylic resins cured by UV light has, finally, enabled me to create a GISS-silhouette imitation for the Simulid larvae which are as prolific in our streams as the Baetid nymphs. Early trials seem to indicate that the pattern has promise. Like Tim's patterns, it consists of few materials and takes only minutes to tie.

On a recent trip to the Richtersveld, Craig Thom of the Stream-X fly shop in Cape Town found the most effective fly for the Orange River yellowfish to be a 2.7 mm Hanak tungsten nymph body on a #14 grub hook. Superglued onto the hook shank, coloured olive with a permanent marker and then covered with clear UV-cured resin, it provided the basis for a GISS-fly par excellence. All that was required was few barred waterfowl feather fibres for the tail and a slim, heavy, Baetis nymph imitation was created.

Be guided by GISS and your fly tying will become more effective and your fishing more successful.


Discounts are available to FOSAF members from the following Affiliate Resorts:
Southern Drakensburg/KZN: Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve, Lake Naverone, Riverlea, Sani Valley Flyfishing and Game Lodge and Wildfly.
Gauteng and Mpumulanga:Kloofzicht, Stonecutters Lodge, Vaal Streams, Nooitgedacht.

Discounts are available to FOSAF members from the following Affiliates: Frontier Flyfishing, Torburnlea, and from the following Member Clubs: Underberg/Himeville, Belfast, and Dullstroom.

Contact details and information are available from Liz 011 467 5992 and on the FOSAF website.


Finsbury Estate, Highland Run, Komati Gorge Lodge, Katrinusrust, Lunsklip Fisheries, Mavungana, Millstream, Oxbow Country Estate, Stealth Fly Rod (Pty) Ltd, Transvaal Fly Fishers Club, Verlorenkloof and Whiskey Creek

Details are on the FOSAF website ???


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